DAARSTOC was founded in 1976 by Dr. Mark E. Sandberg. Its first graduates were in Spring 1977. At the time, classrooms were largely taught by lectures and focused on theory. The reason for this new group was to create experiential opportunities for students to learn skills largely not taught in classrooms. It was to teach skills that would help propel students in their careers.
Just as today, the earliest entering members had to apply and interview. In the very first group, Dr. Sandberg chose three students, Ross DeMaris, Dale Smith and Mark Wishner to interview the other students. An initial group of 12 was formed. Today the group is larger. First groups could meet for three hour sessions weekly. Since day students were not allowed into evening courses in those years, DAARSTOC knew much less about how to train these skills. Today, because of student schedules, DAARSTOC meets for an hour and a half at its weekly meetings.
As a result of the advancement in its approaches, students learn more today than they did in the early days with the longer sessions.
DAARSTOC meets for an hour and a half. The concept was the result of an unusual and very experimental master’s program Dr. Sandberg had attended. This group under the direction of Dr. Stanford Kight at Drexel University (in those days called Drexel Institute of Technology) was put together with the requirement that the ten incoming members each year were chosen to ensure there would be very different personalities in that program. That alone, would cause conflicts, and by trial and error people would learn how to interact successfully as professionals. Dr. Sandberg believed that workshop designs could be constructed that enabled people to learn these skills much faster and in a focused manner.
To learn interpersonal skills, one building block would be the ability to “see” behavior while you are in an interaction. It means you need to see it while you are hearing what is said, strategizing your response and thinking about your choice of words. This one area is taught by having current members do a set of role plays in which the manager acts in ways that are incorrect and thus both the manager and subordinate are showing a lot of behavior. These role plays are video taped. Then the students view them, learning to see behaviors. Since college-age students already think that they can see behavior (and have been doing it all of their lives), it becomes hard to teach this skill set until they begin to realize how much they are missing. Each student gets a handout that lists five categories of non-verbal behaviors that students learn to see. Left on their own, they tend to see gross movements, such as a foot or hand tapping or someone playing with a pen. At the other end of the spectrum are very slight movements around the edges of the mouth or the eyes. The goal is to see even subtle movements. By showing the students all five areas at once, they quickly come to see items from levels four and five in addition to level one right from the start. This greatly shortens the time they need to learn to really see behavior.
Through the years, virtually every aspect of the DAARSTOC experience has undergone changes. These might be suggested by alumni, friends or students. Friends of DAARSTOC are people who did not go through DAARSTOC and might not even be graduates of Rider, but who donated their time and effort over the years to helping the undergraduate members. These people were nominated and voted as “friends” by a current DAARSTOC class. Alumni and friends have stayed in touch through the years. Many have come back for those sessions where undergraduates’ learn from the graduates’ experiences.
DAARSTOC is unique among student clubs and organizations in that it does NOT bring speakers into its weekly meetings. These sessions utilize experiential activities to teach the skills. Skills require practice and repetition. There are some weekend sessions that include alumni and friends. One in the fall has 8-15 alumni/friends come back and tell the students about their careers. They talk about the successes and the challenging times. This is always a major learning event for the undergraduates. In the Spring, a group of 4-6 come in and spend the day answering questions about how to interview for jobs. This is generally scheduled as a full-day event due to the fact that the students generate a large number of questions before the guests arrive.
In 2008, Mark Sandberg retired from Rider University. Over one-hundred DAARSTOC alumni returned to Rider that summer to celebrate Sandberg’s legacy in the organization. Across the speeches and personal messages, there was a common theme that DAARSTOC maintains an invaluable effect on the lives and careers of many people. In the Fall of 2008, Dr. Gene Kutcher assumed leadership over the undergraduate program. He is committed and excited to continue DAARSTOC’s long tradition of excellence and unique approach to student development.